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AIBU to throw in the towel here

(15 Posts)
DetonationStation Tue 08-Dec-15 03:29:22

Long and convoluted, please bear with me. Would appreciate your thoughts

A year ago I moved to a new area, and found a local parent-run playgroup that I took DD to twice a week. At the time I joined, all of the running of the playgroup was mainly done by one woman, who, with enough notice, was moving on about 6 months ago. She did a really good job of this and seemed very well organised, although there did appear to be some friction between some of the people who attended on different days.
I started attending some of the committee meetings after a few months as this was happening, thinking as I attended both days it would be a good bridge between the different sessions, and agreed to take on a housekeeping/shopping role (as this fit really well with another voluntary role I have with another organisation). I also took on updating of the facebook page (which I since realised was silly, since I rarely post on fb anyway. One other lady does lots of sharing of interesting posts there, to keep it active, but it seems to be down to me to post the informative stuff, schedule events and keep it updated).
One other regular lady and myself agreed to temporarily take on a bit more to keep it running - up until there were other people to take over, so we both got set up with internet banking and the playgroup email access. There are another who also have access to the email, and a woman who has been at the playgroup the whole time but doesn't use email or internet. (I know this is confusing: so there's two longtimers, one who doesn't use technology, one who does but doesn't come to the playgroup very often at all, then myself and two others who have been there for less than a year).

I got 'unexpectedly' landed with the admin file about 4 months ago, and have pretty much ended up doing everything bar the liaison with the education department. I don't see anyone, in the last 2-3 months having checked or replied to any emails, and the banking, well, I've ended up doing that too.
I don't have time for this - my daughter attends two days at another facility which requires much more of my time and I am also doing some study with them. At committee meetings mid year I had clearly and repeatedly stated that I didn't want to take on the previous lady's role (of doing everything) and that I didn't believe this should be for just one person to do. But I knew there would be a period of transition and was prepared to help out till we got up and running.
The playgroup 'committee' is aware of the other facility and requirements on my time, and I have stated that I don't have time to regularly check and respond to emails, to manage all the other little jobs that don't get done otherwise - banking money, setting up sign in sheets and printing out, little things that just pile up but are required week to week.
The building needs some finishing work doing on it and is currently not that safe, so someone needs to project manage the quotes and work etc. This has been the case since october, when the original building work was finished. One of the longtimers was going to look into this, but haven't heard anything since from her. We have meetings every 6 weeks to organise and discuss everything but she didn't turn up to that either, so nothing could be moved on then; the next scheduled meeting isn't til February. I've approached one builder since, heard nothing back in the way of quotes, and have another I can hopefully get a quote from.

I took an hour out of my study time last week to compose an email to the 4 committee people (who use email - the nonemailer I discussed with prior) regarding the building work and a few other things, asking for their feedback. There has been zero response (and while I totally appreciate its a very busy time of year for EVERYONE) so another month or so in stasis.

I feel torn, as the playgroup has such great potential, is a fantastic (and usually very safe) space for the children and I would hate to see it close because nobody would take anything on. I have discussed with other regulars attending how we need people to help out, and the reply is the same as above "well we love coming here and its such a great location, but I don't want to take anything on".
I reckon the workload could be very manageable with 4-5 people (admin/emails, finances and chasing the non-payers, education dept liaison - the longtimer who does this has indicated she too will move on soon, housekeeping, fundraising and promotion) and it would probably wouldn't even be an hour a week for each role, but to do it all, its just not happening.
Looking forward, one of the committee members is having a baby any minute now so won't really be doing much. The other has 3 kids and works part-time so won't be taking anything else on. The next few months looks like nothing will change for me, and I really don't want to carry this playgroup on my own, and certainly not if I'm wasting time sending emails for input and discussion that no-one is going to respond to! I've stopped going twice a week, as people had started introducing me as 'X . . . who runs the playgroup' . . . er no, I'm not!
I will definitely not be coming in 6 months time when DD goes to (the equivalent of) nursery and people are aware of that. I don't enjoy going to this playgroup any more as: as soon as I arrive I'm on the go - some people do help out on the session, to be fair - and its knackering. Its definitely not what I starting attending for and I just feel resentful and want to leave the admin folder and a handover sheet for whoever doesn't want to see the playgroup close. We are a small(ish) community and I also don't want this to backfire on my family in anyway. I honestly don't think I really want to take DD next term as it all just feels like a massive hassle now

SusanIvanova Tue 08-Dec-15 08:05:30

So tell them you are moving on by x date and will no longer be able to fulfil the role. They'll find someone else when they have to.

Gazelda Tue 08-Dec-15 08:11:41

Can you call a meeting to discuss transition plans for when you move on in 6 months? Maybe suggest its a public meeting so everyone is aware that changes are going to happen.

ToothlessAndPointless Tue 08-Dec-15 08:11:57

Just hand it all back by X date. It'll survive or not.

If you don't want to do it, don't do it.

Sleepyfergus Tue 08-Dec-15 08:15:29

I think you need to be firmer with them all. Email again to the committee members following up on your last email that no-one responded to stating that you are not solely responsible and that a lack of support means that in X weeks time, you are resigning form your role. Then I would withdraw your daughter and find something else to do with her until she starts nursery to avoid any bad feeling (not that you should, but a sharp exit makes it easier and less stressful for you I suspect)

I would also send a note to the playgroup goers stating that 'community' playgroups such as these only exist if people volunteer and help out. If thy don't then it will close. Be stark and frank. There are lots out there who assume someone else will do it, when in truth no-one does and it's left to someone like you who ends up taking it all on.

It's sad but I think is quite common with non official groups. Good luck.

FishWithABicycle Tue 08-Dec-15 08:20:43

Hmm no yanbu - but you don't have to quit altogether (unless you want to of course) - work out what level of work you are happy with, and publicise generally that another volunteer is needed to do xyz by the end of January. If no one volunteers by the end of January (quite likely) then up the defcon level by saying if your workload can't be reduced you will have no choice but to resign. At that point, either someone else will volunteer or you will leave and it will become some other mug's problem anyway.

honeysucklejasmine Tue 08-Dec-15 08:28:59

Unfortunately sometimes you just have to walk away.

I recently asked all parents at my Rainbow unit to volunteer one evening each. One hour between Jan and the summer. Said they can bring along other siblings, and sex of parent doesn't matter. Four parents have come forward. Out of seventeen. So the other thirteen are saying they can't give up one hour to ensure their daughters unit stays open whilst I go on mat leave.

Luckily three of those who came forward are able to help on a regular basis. But I am still upset others can't find one hour of time to help.

There gets a point where you have to walk away. You've done a lot for this group, so even if you stop, at least you tried. And did a hell of a lot more than most people.

queenrollo Tue 08-Dec-15 08:56:38

I stopped going to a local toddler group when there was pressure to take on admin roles. I've been on several committees before and ended up like you - doing way more than I had originally put forward for. Once bitten and all that.
Having been in the position of trying to rally others to take on some of the work I have a lot of sympathy for you though.
It's hard when it's part of a local community, because you feel responsible for keeping this resource available to others - but quite simply, you tell people that they either step up or they lose it.
Is there anyone in the community, without the commitment of children who could take on some roles?
Our local village hall is run in the main by retired villagers, a couple of whom took on committee roles for the toddler group and it's worked well.

DetonationStation Wed 09-Dec-15 00:36:49

Yep I know the obviously thing is just to leave ASAP if I don't want to do it. If I were reading this and someone else writing it, it seems so obvious: don't do something you don't want to do. So I'm not sure where this misplaced guilt is coming from - its not me spoiling it for everyone as its everyone's responsibility if they want to continue to bring their kids there.
Logically a no brainer.

I got one reply this morning, briefly responding to my first (and least important) point. So I have, now, had a 'reply' although it doesn't give me anything that I can make advancements on (ie building jobs etc).
It was pretty cathartic writing this out here though.

Gazelda we have scheduled our committee meetings for the next year already - I have loaded them as fb events as well as emailing everyone on our database, and made it clear EVERYONE with a child at playgroup, frequent attender or not, is welcome. Agendas have always been pretty loose (in fact they didn't seem to exist until I started putting up a sheet at the venue for people to add the things they want raising! Previous parents wanted the meetings to be relaxed and informal).
Sleepyfergus and Fish I reckon yeah, if I stay, there will always be something for me to do, hence thinking completely stopping at nurserytime so I don't get roped into carrying on even as an infrequent member. I will put something on the fb page in due course about how everyone needs to get involved. Maybe try and open discussion around this.
One of the difficulties is that one of the sessions is mainly populated by childminders bringing their charges, so they don't get involved in the machinations (although, technically, they're the only ones being paid to be there!!) or 'behind the scenes' (apart from the one woman who doesn't use computers).

I think I also feel bad that I am actually not doing that much and it needs a lot more work and planning - I'm not even holding it together. I think we've lost bookings/opportunities from the emails not being checked and responded to promptly enough. I've uploaded all the admin templates and information I had (bar emergency contact deets for parents etc) to google drive so it could be accessed by other committee members. Queenrollo I have suggested we outsource the running and admin to a paid role, I think that brings up other issues ie fundraising to cover their wages, who will 'manage' this person/who are they answerable to? I think its definitely a good option but will need much discussion and input from the whole committee, and I personally think it should be someone without children there but with experience with kids. It could definitely be a nice little role for 5-6 hours running sessions and maybe 3ish flexible work from home hours admin/marketing/planning a week.

After a day thinking about it, I think I will keep on til the next committee meeting in feb and handover then (basically leave the file on the table and not take it with me!!) - we are not in the UK so the next term doesn't start for another 2 months now. There is not much happening til then, and gives me enough time to write up a handover, and I had already said I would be helping out with 1-2 sessions over the holidays

Yeah I understand this is common in these types of groups, I did do a search here about it a while back. Just sucks that I inadvertently ended up exactly where I stated I did not want to be

LaLyra Wed 09-Dec-15 00:54:00

People won't volunteer to step up because they'll end up (or fear they'll end up) like you, landed with everything.

With the playscheme committee I could tell you now who would volunteer if I ask tomorrow for something to be done. I know who genuinely can't help and I know who'll promise the world and then do nothing. It's the way of the volunteering world sadly. The only way I can keep things going is to ask people to do set jobs that don't commit them to anything long term as that makes people run. Often the only way to get help is to say "unfortunately if we don't get X help by Y date than Z will be cancelled" then miraculously a dozen parents can suddenly spare some time.

Is your playgroup attended by any child-minders? We had a cry for help from a local playgroup (I think they were hoping I'd pitch in/take over while I was on ML, but I never really got into playgroup/toddlers with DC5) and a couple of chidlminders ended up becoming really active committee members as they figure they are likely to use the group long term with mindees.

LaLyra Wed 09-Dec-15 00:55:50

I just saw your comment about childminders attending - they might be interested in getting involved if it's a choice between pitching in or the group folding.

dodobookends Wed 09-Dec-15 01:31:28

Well OP, I've been in your shoes and I feel your pain - got landed with being the 'Acting Chair' (otherwise known as general dogsbody) of a playgroup committee pretty much by accident confused

The only way I eventually managed to wriggle free was when I gathered all the paperwork, keys, files, bank stuff etc, bundled the whole lot into a couple of big carrier bags & took it all with us to the next playgroup session. I mentioned to a couple of fellow long-timers that dc and I wouldn't be able to go for a few weeks. Oh, and here are several carrier bags, perhaps somebody else had better look after all the paperwork for a bit while I'm not around. They kind of ever-so-casually backed away, but we left before they did, and I left the bags on a table in the hall. Job done.

Other people took over - because they had to - and the playgroup kept going.

TheExMotherInLaw Wed 09-Dec-15 02:02:16

Why not ask if any of the mums have a mum who might be interested?
I'm 60, and ran a local parent and baby club for a few years, until last week. A team of rent-a-grans might be just what you need.
It is very difficult to hand over, I know! I was chair of PTA for about 6 years, and people were so indignant when I hobbled in one day, neck brace and crutches, resigned due to injuries, and hobbled back out!

queenrollo Wed 09-Dec-15 14:36:47

The group I left is not the group that is run in my village. That one is, in the main, run by the village childminder. It's also heavily attended by other local childminders and their charges. It's a fab group but falls on the only free time the nursery could take my son so I don't attend any more.
I think asking local childminders to take on the running is a good suggestion.

SilverDragonfly1 Wed 09-Dec-15 17:04:03

ExMotherinLaw has a good suggestion. This is just the sort of role I'd be happy to take on, keeping current my experience of pre-school education while fitting round my caring responsibilities.

I already volunteer at a toddler group once a week and that is very popular because us volunteers do all the setting up etc and mums just come to relax and play with the children.

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